The Brussels Environment Institute has put together lots of information on improving the energy efficiency of your household. The "défi energie" is available in French and Dutch on the IBGE website.
This is our very first challenge and these are some of our suggestions:
- Reorganize you garbage: get one big garbage bin for the white (and other) official garbage bags in your kitchen and make sure you get a proper lid to close it, instead of using small bags to fill up a big one;
- Make sure you get all kinds of reusable bags/boxes/trolleys: the ones provided by supermarkets, small thin bags to hide in your handbag and unfold when you need them, trolleys (some to be folded) and handy foldable boxes to leave in the car. It is such a nice feeling to be able to refuse all those plastic bags offered to you in the shops and at the market;
- Try to buy fruit and vegetables in loose and big quantities (see next month's challenge);
- Get a composting bin or compost place in your garden: this will reduce your (smelly) garbage.
- Make use of "Tupperware" and similar boxes to store things in the fridge, to use for picnic and as lunch boxes.
get access to a weekly organic fruit and vegetable basket in your neighborhood!
There are many reasons to do this:
- For your health: you will get a nice amount of fruit and vegetables every week, they are as fresh as they can be and they are organic and to say it with Michael Pollan's words: this is REAL food;
- For the environment: buying locally reduces your ecological footprint avoiding food miles (transport of your food) - even the fair trade ones come by boat which is less polluting than airplanes - it reduces packaging (no plastic involved);
- For your taste: nothing tastes as good as these fresh and organic treasures;
- For the wellbeing of traditional farmers versus the big food industry: both the local ones and the fair trade partners in developing countries;
- For biodiversity: some of the vegetables are almost forgotten and have become unavailable in our supermarkets, but taste lovely and are very nutritious.
Check out a selection of addresses, recipe books, season calendars and more in our article.
This will be our challenge for this month:
- Tap water in Belgium is safe and needs to qualify to 55 EU and WHO criteria and you can read all about it on www.vivaqua.be in English (under "Practical Information").
- At first it might have a chlorine smell/taste, but if you leave it for 10 minutes most of it has evaporated!
- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice might make miracles as to the taste!
- If you want to read about the impact of you drinking bottled water (waste, health, etc.) have a look at this article from www.emagazine.com
- If you prefer to use a water filter jug (e.g. BRITA) only use very cold water and store it in the fridge if you intend to keep it longer than a day (max. 2 days in total!)
- It is up to 100x cheaper than bottled water!
- Imagine how much waste and transport you could avoid by providing each family member with their own refillable drinking bottle!
Our challenge for this month is not so difficult, but quite important!
- A shower takes less water than taking a bath unless you shower for more than 8 minutes!
- By taking a short shower you can save money, but also reduce the amount of precious drinkable water you use to wash yourself with!
- One might think of timing a shower and a song or two might make it more fun (see also short shower songs and more tips at Do The Green Thing)
- Try to reduce the flow of water either manually or by installing a very efficient high aeration shower head (which you can find in shops like BRICO for about 15 €).
- A thermostatic knob might also help to find the right temperature immediately so you do not loose water before you actually take the shower.
Good luck with finding your favorite short shower tune!
Write a note, email or letter to your politicians or sign a petition!
- The annual global Climate Change Conference, this year from 1-12 December in Poznan, Poland, provides a good opportunity to ask our politicians for more bold actions NOW . You can write directly to them or see the petition for example on The Big Ask to be signed before 11 December 2008.
- The proposal to build a new coal plant in Belgium provides another opportunity to act: You can ask for the project to be stopped either through email directly to your politicians or through signing a petition, see for instance the Greenpeace link on this website under be heard.
- More locally, in all supermarkets you can post your suggestions in a box (usually forms are available). Give them your suggestions (also in English) to impove things concerning packaging, organic food choice, tracability etc.
Good luck and remember: you can make a difference!
Living in a country like Belgium, the idea that water is a scarce resource can be hard to swallow; scarce things don’t fall from the sky every other day. But globally, the situation is quite different:
- Only 3 percent of the Earth’s water is freshwater, and at least two thirds of that is held beyond human use in glaciers, ice caps, permafrost, or deep underground wells.
- That last 1 percent? It’s not evenly distributed. In 2006, one billion people (one sixth of the world’s population) were living on less than the bare minimum of four liters of water a day needed for survival.
- For the future, the situation only looks more precarious. Rising population means more pressure on existing resources, while global warming may put much of the freshwater supply at risk of disappearing, both from melting ice caps and glaciers and from decreased rainfall in much of the world.
Open gifts with care and attention to the wrapping paper, ribbons, tags and boxes.
The challenge is to see how much can be saved and put away for reuse during your next holiday season.
Did you know that paper can be ironed on a low setting if you find there are two many creases in it from a previous wrapping.
On the inside of sheets of paper write the dates when used and see how many years one sheet of paper can be used. This can provide great entertainment in years to come as you remember gifts wrapped in the paper years past or simply how many years you’ve seen it come back in circulation.
Save tags and reuse again another year….saves time on writing out new tags and money buying new tags.
Ribbon can be added to new ribbons another year, can be reused as is, or added to children’s crafts.
Boxes often fold flat and take up little space. If they can not be folded, take on the puzzle challenge to find out how many you can nest together. Wrapping the parts of a box rather than the whole box itself saves the paper and has a prepared box for next year’s use.
Can you reuse any parts of pre-packaged gift items?
This article was originally published in the October 2011 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.
Help with smog prevention
Read about winter smog in Belgium in our new article. Yes, you can do something about it!
1. avoid using the car: alternatives and links in our article on smog
2. if you have to use the car: practise eco driving
3. use less energy and get ideas by participating at an energy challenge session 21 or 28 January 2009
Green your Holidays
already thinking about your next break? Give the planet a break at the same time by trying reduce the environmental impact of your little escape. Have a look at our holidays page for some suggestions.